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Kibwezi Lewis ....another St Teresa's success story

I was born in Nairobi and raised on the fringes of Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park (fondly called the “the heart of wildlife” by wildlife lovers) in Kibwezi. As a result of this early introduction to wildlife, I have been a keen wildlife enthusiast. Nevertheless, my earlier interest was as a “destroyer of wildlife” through sports. But ever since I got into tourism in 1968, after my formal education and a working stint in my family’s business, I opened my heart to conservation, believing then as I do now that sensitive tourism is the best way to enjoy the marvels of nature with which the world is endowed

Not only does sustainable tourism reward your heart with a feeling of being part and parcel of such a beautiful natural world, but it also ensures that future generations too will have the chance to experience the same. To paraphrase an African saying, we must take care of the earth not because it was given to us by our parents, but because it belongs to our children.

The many years I worked in different capacities for various tourism based establishment provided me with the much-needed hands-on experience required to participate positively in the industry in Africa. Apart from being sensitized to the needs of our very fragile environment that is the life and blood of tourism in this part of the world, I also came to understand what it takes to satisfy the needs of each and every visitor.

When in 1984 I started Visit Africa Limited, my goal was to establish a firm that shied away from “mass tourism” dedicating itself to providing customized and personalized service to the visitor. This begins with the language our guides use on safari. For example, if you are French, we will get you a French speaking guide. We do the same for Spanish, Italian and English –speaking visitors.

St Teresa's: A Nun's story

Sister Thomas More:  Memories of St Teresa’s …

(Catherine McGrath is my secular name.  In Kenya, I was known as Mother Thomas More and then, later on, we dropped the title Mother and became Sister.  Now here in England, I am known usually as Sister T M (Thomas More). )

I was a member of the English Province of the Loreto Sisters when in August 1960 a letter was received from the Mother General inviting Sisters to volunteer to go to Kenya to teach in a Primary School.   I put the request on the long finger, but at the end of the month, I volunteered.  I got a response by the return of post!

At the end of October, I left for Kenya and was based in Loreto Convent, Msongari.  I travelled to Eastleigh each day in the company of Sister Teresa Gertrude, the headmistress and Sister Stanislaus who taught in the Senior Department.

Sister Teresa Gertrude, fondly known as MTG, was a woman way ahead of her time.  She felt restricted by having to be driven to school by the convent driver and collected when he was free!. So, a driver had to be at her back and call!  Hence, I learnt to drive just a few days into my arrival in Kenya.   In the following February was acquired a car for the school and we were off!  Netball, rounders etc. teams were transported all over the place!

Sister Stanislaus was with us until the summer of 1961 when she went on home leave.  On her return to Kenya, she was transferred to Loreto Limuru.

When I first went to St Teresa’s – January 1961 – The Standard 2 class teacher, Mrs Almeida, was on leave and so I was trusted with her class.  When she returned, I was a kind of “unofficial supervisor” in the Primary section as there was only one head at the time.  I did graduate to some class teaching later.  I taught French to the Std. 7 class, but I really have no recollection of what else I did! Apart from being the driver!!

I also remember teaching French to the 3rd form and for this, I had to spend time preparing and revising during the holidays! The Second Vatican Council occurred in 1962 and we used to listen to the reports from the Vatican each lunch-time whilst we were eating our lunch. (In those days, Loreto sisters did not eat in public!)

After two or three years with MotherTeresa Gertrude (MTG), I got a new headmistress – Sister Francis De Sales.  She was a driver and so we took it in turns to drive to school.

Things and families, I remember during my time in Eastleigh:

From the school, one had an uninterrupted view of the Mathare hospital across Mathare valley.  Now, this valley has given a home to thousands of people and the hospital building is no longer in sight.

One Sunday morning we were called to the school following a break-in.  Someone had stolen rolls of uniform cloth which were housed in the office block. We went to Pangani police station and on entering we saw the rolls of cloth in the station.  I think that they gave it back to us there and then.  They had caught the one who had stolen the cloth.

In the school office, the clerk was Mrs Blanche Nazareth.  She was a very efficient and pleasant lady.  She used to take me into the city for my driving lessons in the afternoons.

Teachers on the staff were usually quite young and were all very friendly. The older ones were Mrs De Sa, Miss Maisie Nazareth, Mrs Mary Fernandes, Mrs Caroline Alpin and Mrs Delphine Noronha.  The “youngsters” were Miss Jeannette Paes, Miss Clemmie, Miss Olga, Miss Florrie, Mrs Marie, Mrs Almeida, Miss Ivy (who married Silu Fernandes who played hockey for Kenya).  I remember going to a local park with MTG to see him play in an international match.

We had great dealings with the Boys’ school which was presided over by Fr Hannon CSSP and Fr Cremmins CSSP.  On St Teresa’ Feast in October, we had the day off and both staffs went on an outing which was very popular.  ‘The Brown Trout’ in the Rift Valley was a place which we enjoyed. The pupils were usually very biddable and had respect for their teachers.  Some of the teachers had their own children or sisters in the school.  The Paes family, Verona, Maureen and Lilian were sisters of Miss Jeannette.  Mrs Noronha had June, Sonya, Fernanda and Colin (we had boys up to Std 3 and when we had  “housetrained them,  they went across the road!!).  Mrs Almeida had Francesca, Amelia and Gerard in the school.  Mrs Alpin had Teresa and Gail. Some of the other pupils whom I remember were Rosalind and Maria De Silva, Rosalia D’Mello, Yvette D’Souza, Maria Margaret Fernandes, Fanny and Driscoll D’Costa, Jeanne Nazareth, et al.

In 1972 when I was home on leave from Kenya I attended the wedding of Fanny D’Costa and the church was full of ex Nairobi Goans.  As I had been out to a hospital in London, to visit a former pupil (Irene Barros) and it was Saturday afternoon, Rosalind D’Silva and I arrived late.   In fact, we had just time to get into the back row of the church when the happy couple came down the aisle!  We were in time for the reception where many stories were exchanged.

In past years, I have been to two or three reunions of pupils from the Girls’ and Boys’ schools.  These have been very well attended as the Goans like to keep up their club systems.

I was transferred to the Catholic Parochial School in January 1966 and then was involved in the building of the new school which was a building crying out to be refurbished.

In 2004 I attended nephew’s wedding in Idaho and then went over to North Carolina to visit my sister and her family. Because of meeting Rosalia, I was invited to visit Toronto and had a wonderful week with her. One day I met up with about 40 past pupils and teachers at a park in the city.  They were all excited to talk about school days and we had a lovely afternoon.

During my time there I met up with Elma D’Souza and her husband and was taken to visit Niagara Falls.  Elma came down the corridor looking as young and youthful as she had done so many years ago.

Whilst I was in Toronto I was able to visit Loretto Abbey, the home of the Loretto Sisters of the Canadian Province.

Since I returned from Kenya, I have met up with Ethel Price, now known as Jill, who taught music to the girls in St Teresa’s.  She is very involved in the local Parish where she plays the organ and trains the choir.  

I think that that concludes my memories as after the Catholic Parochial I taught in Eldoret, one year in St Teresa’s, Valley Road and Loreto Msongari.

I returned to England in 1995 when my mother had a stroke and I was able to visit her before she died in 1995. 

I am sure she would love to hear from ex-students:

Jinja Goan Institute

When Speke discovered the source of the Nile on July 28, 1862, little did he imagine that a sizeable town would replace the dense bush and elephant grass on the opposite bank.
In time, the indomitable Goan reached the inhospitable opposite bank to find himself in Jinja, which was still in an embryonic stage.  Drawbacks were numerous. Most of the Goans got to Jinja by palanquin carried on the shoulders of porters.  The District Commissioner’s clerk – who was invariably a Goan—had the privilege of being provided by fifty porters to carry his luggage and belongings.
It did not take long for a small clutch of Goans to populate Jinja.  Goans happen to be a gregarious lot.  After their basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are met they invariably gravitate towards finding a common meeting place for socializing, reading, and the pursuit of sports. The pioneers lost no time in getting together to build a one-roomed club-house where they “could read papers, and thus break the monotony of office work”. The sod was broken on March 26, 1911, and land tenure was secured by a 25-year lease. Membership was open to all nationalities.
Records are somewhat sketchy, but it is known that the first President was Mr.L.C. Fernandes.
In 1933, spearheaded by Mr.Stephen De Souza (Stan’s father), the adjoining overgrown bush was cleared and a hockey and cricket pitch set up.
Around 1935, the first Goan School was started as an adjunct to the amenities provided by the club, with the late Miss Lucy Fernandes (later wife of the late Leo Gama), as the first teacher.

In 1949, a hall was added to the modest single room which was converted to a library.  As would be expected, a bar was seen as an essential adjunct and was included in the extensions.  Mr.D.C. Vadgama designed and supervised the construction, free of charge. Several non-Goan businessmen donated funds for what they saw as a worthwhile cause.

In 1954, Messrs Aniceto Rodrigues and James Lobo were instrumental in floating a loan to carry our major extensions to the club that were dictated by the growing membership. Debentures were issued and the response was very encouraging.

Mr Vadgama was again responsible for the work which gave the clubhouse a secretary ’s room, a ladies’ cloakroom and a change-room for sportsmen. Not to be forgotten is the fact that women’s hockey had started in 1951, with the late Alvita Fernandes (later Furtado) as captain. Of course, ladies’ badminton was ongoing and the mothers of some of us here today, were the early proponents.

In 1963, Percy DeSouza put his sextant, spirit-level and engineering talents to good use.  He laid out one of the finest turf pitches of the day, on the ground adjoining the club. Goans interacted well with all communities.

Of all the Uganda Goans in Toronto, the Jinja clan stands out as the only one that has kept the flame burning with the most annual socials. They stay true to their club motto of “Animo el fine”.

(Acknowledgement: Salient points gleaned from material provided by Stan DeSouza)

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Home Truths

Decolonising Africa – Securing The Base

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, ranks among the great literary minds of Africa. He is also up there with the best of the free thinkers of the world.

Africa has undergone a significant stride of structural changes that have influenced the mind-sets and convictions of the African people.  
From the guise of bringing advancements, the continent has been placed under slavery, colonialism, apartheid and post-colonial submissions that have continuously been challenged through social movements, literature, art and other forms of influential expressionism. African discourse leaders and authors such as Kwame Nkrumah, Sol Platjie, S.E.K. Mqhayi, Dr WB Rhubusana, Nontsizi Mgqwetho, Mazisi Kunene, Bantu Steve Biko, Chinua Achebe, Xolela Mangcu and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, to mention a few, have dosed sharp intellectual injections coursing the veins of the African Renaissance, Pan Africanism, and Decolonisation of the African continent.

Pressing on the fundamentals of a decolonised African state, renowned Kenyan professor and author; Ngugi Wa Thiong’o informs of the boundaries needed to break down, to decolonise Africa and secure its base. 

The colonial mentality of looking at Africa as an outsider

It’s time for Africa to do things for themselves

The most apparent problem with many African people is the sight of Africa through the eyes of an outsider, said Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.  He said that this was an imperial intent specifically designed through languages and policies, which normalised the abnormal, to foster post-colonial measurements that would be indestructible for many generations.
“One of the problems of looking at Africa with an eye of an outsider is that you look at the state as a looting mechanism, not as a responsibility. Have you ever heard of anybody robbing their own house?” said Wa Thiong’o, exemplifying the lack of ownership that many Africans have to their continent. He said that this mentality removes us from the responsibility of decolonising the continent and securing our base.
Wa Thiong’o said having colonial mentality strips us from our rightful ownership to the resources on the African soil. “Africa has to control its resources, we have to make things with the resources and exchange them with other countries just in the same way as other countries exchange final products with us – using our gold, copper and diamonds amongst other resources.
Because when you secure the base you can interact with the world, through the basis of equality and respect.
Wa Thiong’o spoke of the imbalance of power between Africa and Western states, affirming that the West shows less representation for African goods and service, when Western goods and services are overwhelmingly represented across the African continent.
“You hear of joint military services but soldiers are always on African soil, and western state companies are always drilling resources on African soil. Further, Africa’s own banking systems are not evident in the western states, but their branches are dispersed across the African continent.”
According to Wa Thiong’o, Africa has over the last 100 years been the eternal donor to the West but has been represented as a state that has always been reliant on aid from the Western community.
Wa Thiong’o said Africa has to find a way of reversing this, by becoming the makers of our own raw materials, to think of Africa alone, and Africa’s relation to the world.
Countries such as Korea and Japan do not have raw materials but are able to manufacture cars that roam on African roads, said Wa Thiong’o.
“It’s time for Africa to do things for themselves,” said Wa Thiong’o, it is not a seeking of isolation but a matter of upholding values of Pan Africanism and having ownership and responsibility of the continent, he said.
Wa Thiong’o presented a map of Africa indicating the depth of the continent, that more than 5 continents in the world can fit into the continent, “so why is Africa still the poorest?” he asked.  Being the largest continent and holding vast lands of resources, and yet it is still the poorest continent.
“We have to realise that we are one as Africa and connect and progress,” said Wa Thiong’o emphasising the importance of ownership and unity for a decolonised Africa.
Colonising African languages as a tool for a colonised mind.

We must acknowledge more than our own to own our own – you can use English, but do not let English use you

Language has been used as a method of subjugation in colonial conquest, and presented as an instrument of learning, advancing and interacting with the rest of the world.  Colonisation saw that the conquered despise and denote their own languages meanwhile living through the languages of their conquerors.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o referred to a question posed by one of Africa’s literature and philosophy pioneers, Kwame Nkrumah who asked; “Are we really sure that we are in touch with the nation and the continent, is the independent African state now in existence for some 50 years, in touch with its people?”
“How can it be in touch when it has embraced European languages, spoken and used by only 10% of the population, as a language of power, commerce, law and even justice?” adjudicated Wa Thiong’o.
On the African nation today, the majority are rendered linguistically deaf and mute by government policies that have set European languages as the normative mission, said Wa Thiong’o.  The professor affirmed that this was, in fact, the result of the fulfilment of a conscious imperial design in the history of conquest.
Wa Thiong’o highlighted exemplifiers of the colonial conquest and its results on the language of the vanquished and its people. He informed that when imperial Japan took over Korea in 1910, they made Korea use their language and gave them Japanese names. The colonies saw the importance of intellectualising empires of the mind, setting a metaphysical empire of language and literature.  In the 19th century the English established practical language policies in India that placed English as a medium of communication in order to create a class of people; who are Indian in blood and colour, but English in mentality.
Wa Thiong’o said the French and the Portuguese used a process called assimilation, and language was at the centre of assimilation, to create a linguistically westernised middle man who would automatically carry out the intent of the ruler onto the masses.  It was necessary to reach the mental core by a solid psychological bond against the day when their progressive emancipation ends, and they are French in language, thought and spirit.
“The colonial utility of educating the African masses was discovered; creating empires of the mind,” said Wa Thiong’o, “and France still controls the national treasuries of many African countries today,” he added.
According to Wa Thiong’o, the success of the empire of the mind or colonies of the mind can be seen in the late defenders of the dominance of European languages in Africa.  He said there is an appearance of some African intellectuals and policymakers who uphold the dominance of European languages in Africa.
“Colonisation of the mind is when we can think that African languages are impediments to our ability to engage with the world,” said Wa Thiong’o, adding that there is a further distortion in the dynamic – when we are not only proud of knowing English but also proud of not knowing our own languages.
“They gave us their access to their accents in exchange for our access to our resources – you gave Africa your resources of your accents, and Africa gave you access to the resources of our land.
Accents for access – that is postcolonial Africa,” he added.
“But this business that English must thrive on the graveyard of African languages – we have to really reject that.
That in order for English to be, then African languages must cease to be – that’s really absurd and we have to reject that”.
Wa Thiong’o said that what is important is the relationship between languages, as no other language is better than the other.  He said it was an empowerment to know one’s own home language even with all other languages in the world, but a service of enslavement to not know one’s own home language.
“We must acknowledge more than our own to own our own – you can use English, but do not let English use you,” affirmed Wa Thiong’o.
“Remember that there are forces that will never want us to be aware of the dimension of our presence in the world – To counter these forces, we have to know ourselves – this is the importance of decolonising ourselves and securing our base,” he said.
Wa Thiong’o said we have to make a conscious language policy that will pour in resources and open doors for the African language. We might embrace the fact that we have a number of languages as Africans, but do not put any resources into that is imperialising.
“We have to know ourselves before we can secure the base,” said Wa Thiong’o.
Maintaining colonial school curriculums to condition African discourses

We have an entire archive of black historical knowledge that is living outside of the educational institutions

Education was for emancipation and knowledge to the people, but the curriculum was designed to maintain chains of enslavery and misdirection for the African people said UCT (University of Cape Town) Professor Xolela Mangcu speaking on decolonising African universities.
“We have to redefine what we think we know about knowledge,” said Mangcu who was a student of Wits University during the ‘80s where they advocated for, and challenged issues of decolonisation and misrepresentation of black historical heritage.
“We, as the academic community in this country owes it to our students to re-visit the curriculum of this country, and to revisit what constitutes knowledge,” emphasised Mangcu critiquing that our universities are “quite provincial, and in many cases quite mediocre, as they operate at a sub-optimal level”.
Mangcu said that when he came to university in 1983, the texts that were prescribed remain the same texts being taught to students today, “the prescribed text was Marx, Parson and the like, but some 40 years later our students are still learning the same thing – to me that shows stagnation,” said the professor.
“Our study of humanities has to make us return to ourselves as African people,” said Ngugi wa Thiong’o, he said this was important in order “to find out where the rain begun to beat us,” quoting one of the prominent pioneers of black history; Chinua Achebe.
“And it is not as if we do not have a very rich history – a very rich black history, I might add, that traces back centuries,” said Mangcu, “we have an entire archive of black historical knowledge that is living outside of the educational institutions”.
“We must know our history, otherwise we are doomed to repeating it,” said Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, adding that it must be a history of an African people, not a history of African people told by European people.”
Mangcu emphasised how universities have very little knowledge on black historical heritage.  “How many of our departments teach the writings of Sol Platjie, S.E.K. Mqhayi, Dr WB Rhubusana, Nontsizi Mgqwetho, Mazisi Kunene and so on?
“Decolonisation has to start at home,” said Mangcu.
According to the professor, students are shocked that human development did not start in Europe but in Africa, he said it was due to the curriculum they learn which teaches them otherwise.  He urged students to challenge the system to incorporate the rich art that exists outside of university – into the university, so that students can speak from their own experiences to foster their learning.

My brother John J. D'Souza

John Joseph D’Souza.
Eulogy by his brother, Romeo D’Souza

Good Afternoon to you all, John’s friends.

My father was  Joseph Francis D’Souza, my mother was Anna Gracy D’Souza.... and there were 6 of us children. Joseph, Theresa, Rose, John, Romeo and Xavier.

While I represent everyone in our family, these are my personal insights on My Big Brother John. I am Romeo and I am John’s younger Brother.

John and I started life in the Railway Quarters in Nairobi. My mother had a strict rule for me. She said that if I wanted to go to Dr Ribeiro Goan School, I’d have to hold John’s hand when walking to school. Probably because at 6 Years old I ran all over the place and was careless when crossing roads. So I walked to school with John daily and knew many of his classmates from the Railway quarters area. His class of 57 was quite special to me.

He was quite a smart cookie and often helped me with my Math and Science homework. But, he was sometimes hard to understand because he’d start in the middle of a problem and work to the end rather than start at the beginning. We played hockey, cricket, and marbles etc. as kids. He knew all the rules and he’d change them if he was loosing. There were many many times growing up when he fished me out of trouble.

In late 1956 we moved from Railway Quarters to a house in Nairobi West that my parents had built. We spent the rest of our time in East Africa in this house and I have very many Happy Memories of our lives there. We played a lot around the house making steamboats, and other toys. He was pretty good at Science too. There were lots of family events, Weddings, Christenings, Birthdays etc. and we had fun. My Mother was a good cook and that kept us happy.

After graduating with a Degree in Civil Engineering from the Royal College in Nairobi. He worked briefly for the Survey of Kenya and  Ministry of Works and then proceeded to London England. I did not quite understand then why he had to go to England but I trusted his judgement and left it at that. He said something about further education.

I stayed with John in London on my way to Canada and toured Europe with him in 1969. Europe was quite different then. I’ll always remember the time at Trevi fountain in Rome when an American woman gave John and I hell for not knowing and speaking Konkani. I think that may have sparked his interest in Konkani.

I give him a lot of credit for helping me in my academic and professional life and I’m very grateful to him for guiding me to the career I had with the Directorate of Civil Aviation in East Africa, Transport Canada and Nav Canada. He advised me to apply for a Job in the Telecommunications and Electronics field in Nairobi and that set me up for life.

In Canada, he worked for various Engineering companies finally retiring from Ontario Power Generation where he worked in the Nuclear Plant in Pickering. He often talked about the special protective outfits he had to get into to work in that Nuclear facility.

With respect to our family, John was the backbone of our lives. He was not only wise and smart, but he could see ahead and often predicted outcomes well ahead of time. He kept tabs on everything that was going on in the family and was always there for advice. There were occasions when I told him that he was a Genius. Which he was.

John was keenly interested in the academic achievements of his Nephews and Nieces and Grand Nephews and grand nieces and was always available for advice.

He organized and participated in many family events such as birthday parties, Picnics and Camping Trips Christmas Parties etc. Every event was more enjoyable and fun when he was there. He was full of comments and humorous snide remarks some of which were in Konkani and others in Swahili.

He was extremely interested in our family’s history and collected many old family photographs. He knew more about our parents and grandparents than anyone else and provided all kinds of commentary and information for various special events like my Dad’s Birthday etc. and the people in our family.

It’s only now, after his death, that I realized that John actually had 2 families. He had us, his brothers and sisters, and he had you, the Goan Community. He had his special clubs and associations that consisted of TEGSA, 55PGA, GCG, Goan Archives, Konkani DVD and many more.

Because of this, I asked John’s long-time good friend and associate on many ventures, Juliet Rebello if she and her group could organize the Celebration of life reception for John. I felt that it would be quite fitting for John’s friends to arrange his Celebration of life. I think John would have liked this.

So today's Celebration of Life for John has been put together by Juliet and her team.

I also wish to acknowledge and applaud and thank Cyprian Fernandes from Sidney Australia for assisting me and holding my hand during this tough time. Trevorlyn Menezes for all his help, advice and support especially getting this hall, and Michael Pinto from Winnipeg who worked with John on Konkani projects but has never met John in person. He put together a very informative booklet relating to John. It’s my intention to Email it to anyone that requests it as there are a limited number of printed copies here.

It was Trevorlyn that made me realize that John had another family as well. And they too needed to be involved in this event. Thank You Trevorlyn.

The lovely photograph of John was Initiated by Cyprian Fernandes and touched up by Merwin D’Souza the Webmaster of the School Web site. Thank you Merwin and Skippy.
Thanks, Juliet and Tina, Valence and the Knights of Columbus, and your team for organizing this. And a big Thank You to Tim Demello and Ernest Vienna, Claude Gomes, Norman DaCosta, , Bernard Ribeiro, Roque Baretto, 55PGA, and everyone involved that had a special take on John. He was a multi-faceted guy; sort of like a diamond. Thank you, Elma, for leading us in prayer.

A big thank you to my Brother Xavier and my sisters Theresa and Rose for your assistance in this difficult time.  My gratitude also goes out to all of our nieces, nephews and spouses for your tremendous support and consideration.

Finally, my sincere thanks and gratitude go out to all of you for making this a special occasion for my brother John.

John was not just my Brother, he was my best friend, and I’ll miss him dearly forever.
Rest in Peace John.

A shorter version of the above remembrance was read earlier at the Mass

Revised List of speakers at the Celebration of Life for John Joseph D’Souza
The following spoke eloquently about John J. D’Souza
1.       Juliet Rebello  Master of Ceremonies
2.       Elma de Souza led the Grace before Meals.
3.       Romeo D’Souza (John’s Brother)
4.       Bernard Ribeiro ( John’s Class of 57)
5.       Bernard Ribeiro for Dr Joe Demello (John’s Class of 57)
6.       Norman Da Costa. Vice President 55PGA.
7.       Claude Gomes. ( Friends of St. Francis Xavier and Goan Archives)
8.       Trevorlyn Menezes. (Strong supporter of John’s various projects)
9.       Selwyn Colaco. President of the GOA.
10.  Juliet Rebello. ( 55PGA, Goan Cultural Group, Active Goan Adults, Mary Lake etc.)
11.  Frank Fernandes,( long-time associate of John) .alias Bwana Frank sang a special Konkani Song he wrote for John and the Bessau tuje (tumche) ponddom .i.e.  The Blessing in Konkani.
12.  Joseph Terry D’Souza. John’s Oldest Nephew.

JOHN J D'SOUZA by Norman Da Costa and Merwin D'Souza

John de Souza – a Goan icon
  By Norman Da Costa and Merwin de Souza

    John de Souza was an indefatigable soul who, like Martin Luther King, harboured a dream. He was a Goan icon. He was a man of many talents. He was passionate about everything to do with the community – the Goan archives, his alma mater Dr Ribeiro’s Goan School and the local clubs. He was a historian and had the pulse of the nation at his fingertips. Ask him a question and within 24 hours you could be assured of an answer. Always willing to help on the condition he was kept in the background. He shunned being in the limelight.

  John had his finger in every pie and many wondered where he got the energy to keep on motoring day in and out after making that long trek to work from his home in Brampton to the Pickering Nuclear Plant a distance of some 70 k/ms each way. He would get home, freshen up and then give a few ladies a ride to bingos or any function being held that evening. That was John, always willing to lend a hand.

  His younger brother Romeo discovered John had passed away overnight on March 20 after a few phone calls went unanswered. The family usually met on March 19 to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day – the patron saint of Dr Ribeiro’s – and also to remember the day their father had died. This man with an encyclopedic mind saw his journey end at the age of 79 way too early since he had so many irons in the fire that needed urgent attention - primarily getting the different Goan organizations in Toronto together under one umbrella. He was rebuffed on several occasions but John wasn’t one to throw in the towel. He trudged on but his body obviously couldn’t pull him over the line. He will be remembered fondly for being the driving force behind several initiatives including the formation of the 55 Plus Goan Association, an organization in the west end of the Greater Toronto Association with a membership of 840.

The 55 Plus was formed after the West End Seniors could no longer accept any more members. He was also the heart and soul of the Active Goans Club at Mississauga’s Square One. John, of course, will always be remembered for single-handedly running the popular Goan Voice Canada website that featured local clubs and more importantly death notices. After several years John was forced to bring down the shutters on his favourite venture much to the chagrin of the community at large after Romeo had asked him if he had a succession plan. For the first time, John admitted defeat but he still had so much on his plate to keep him going. With help from Goans across Canada he promoted the Konkani Rosary in video and was a founding member of the Friends of Goan Welfare Society along with Jerry Lobo, Teresa Mandricks and myself to raise funds for needy Goans in Kenya. We intend to close the account in the coming weeks with a final donation in memory of John. John and I had a long relationship. We worked closely on three Dr Ribeiro Goan School Ex-Students, Canada, functions. John also kept in close contact with Merwin de Souza, another ex-student, who lives in Florida and, like John, spends countless hours keeping the extremely popular Goan School website alive.

John and I also worked on the Railway Goan Institute 100th anniversary celebration committee held in Mississauga on Sept. 20, 2009, and as co-editors put out a comprehensive 46-page glossy brochure. Of course, this piece wouldn’t be complete without a word from Merwin. 

“John was a history buff, particularly our Goan history,’’ wrote Merwin.  “He had an obsession for details, most of us would miss.  Recently he was obsessed with the old G.I. Duke St. building which was one of the few stone structures built in 1905 or so.  “Why stone? Do you know how much-corrugated iron roofing cost at the time . . .  the sheer cost?. . . . Why such a permanent structure when many of our pioneers at the time only had temporary permits?”  He'd question. Like I knew the answer?!  He was fascinated by a seminal 1955 Golden Jubilee G.I. brochure my dad published which to this day is often quoted in lieu of any other community records. Interestingly, among his many other roles, he also assumed the responsibility of community historian placing on record, in the many brochures he produced, the journey of our generation.

John would often say “If we don't know where we came from and the mistakes we made, how do we know where we are going and avoid re-inventing the wheel each time.”  A hint of his engineering background and continual improvement process would come out. “Never know why don't we do post-mortems on community events, figure out what worked, what didn't, what we can improve on the next time and pass the info on to new committees instead of reinventing the wheel . . . the only way we can make progress as a community.’’ 
His concern for the community was widespread from archiving a record of our contributions on this planet to raising the question should we as a community be concerned that our men and women of the cloth are being well looked after in their retirement.

Lately, it was becoming apparent John felt the time was running out and I could sense he was getting frustrated. The community has just lost its most valuable resource.”

Like Martin Luther King, John’s dream of unity in the Goan community remains just that . . . . a dream. Farewell, buddy, I will miss our weekly chats and I wish all those boxes filled to the brim containing prized newspaper cuttings will find a new home.

Trevor Pereira: Dear Brother...

A gentleman walked on Jaffa Dr.

23 February will always be a hard day for me, because one week ago on that day in the early hours of the morning my wonderful brother Eugene left us for his celestial abode. Celebrate my brain says, for he has gone home to his Heavenly Father where there is no more pain.... but without him around it's hard to do so, and the tears aren't dry yet. Then I think of the memories he left us with and a smile soon lights up my face. Besides being brothers, the closeness of our ages cemented us together.....helping or defending the other whenever/wherever was a natural reaction.

Early days/School days
This was played out growing up together in our humble dwelling in the Railway Quarters in Nairobi, Kenya. We cheered the other in sports, defending the other when we got into trouble and generally helping out with school work. In Primary school,  I recall being incensed when Eugene was harshly punished by a certain Indian educated upset I was, that I marched to her office to challenge her!  In secondary school, we got in trouble for overstaying at the local agricultural show and covered for each other so we wouldn't get into further trouble with mum, for being home late.  For extra curricular activities he persuaded me to join the 'Konkani Club'...what I did not know was, a number of other boys/girls were also persuaded to sign up, to make it a fun class....Konkani learnt-zip, dance moves learnt-plenty!

Eugene finished his schooling in 1963 and in early 1964 at age 17 he declared he was going off to the UK with his pal Cyril Rebello and they would be working off their passage on a cargo ship sailing from Mombasa. The rest of us at home all protested that he was too young to take on such an arduous journey, but he insisted and mum taking into consideration the political winds blowing over Kenya gave in. Approx 2 years later he came home for a holiday and mum was chuffed to see her son smartly dressed in a 3 piece suite looking very suave and gently spoken....a youngster went out and a gentleman came back....where ever he went the admirers gathered and I fielded a lot of their enquiries!  I joined him in London in 1970, and there he was at Heathrow to meet & greet me. He always watched over me and helped me settle in. He Introduced me to Saville Row, London's bespoke tailoring street, where he got all his clothing. He told me he was offered a position in Gieves & Hawkes, a bespoke gentleman's clothing house, but turned it down as he did not come to London to be a tailor!  We lived in Muswell Hill in N London an aspiring neighbourhood, and Eugene was Mr Muswell Hill....many knew and loved this charming young man. Many moving on from E Africa stayed with him in London and were made very welcome.  Marriage soon beckoned and soon along came Karl. And then he was moving on again with his young family to Toronto, Canada.....I was not apprehensive this time around, after all he was an experienced man now.

I followed in Eugene's footsteps and moved on to Toronto in 1988 with my family and there was Eugene at Pearson to meet/greet me again...again doing whatever he could to settle me in. He was more settled now, a family man with another lovely son in tow and yet he found time to achieve an accounting designation....full credit to you, Eugene!

Eugene was very much like Dad, hard working, always caring and kind.....though he was steps ahead in his dress sense...and he wore it well!

Many adjectives aptly apply to Eugene...well-dressed, charming, kind, caring, generous, fun-loving, humorous, readily come to mind.

I watched you struggle in the last few days Eugene and yet you never complained, instead you took time to tell me you are at the end of life in an effort to prepare me for the inevitable!  Thank you Maureen, Karl, Gavin and your respective families for doing your ALL for Eugene.

Thank you Lord for loaning Eugene to us, we loved him in life and will continue to love him in death.

And now Eugene you have gone ahead again. When I make it home I'm comforted in the fact that in usual fashion, you will be there to greet me. 

Yes indeed, a Gentleman, all suave and debonair walked on Jaffa Drive.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Eugene for being you.